Us Conductors

Us Conductors

In Which I Seek the Heart of Clara Rockmore, My One True Love, Finest Theremin Player the World Will Ever Know

Book - 2014
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"In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor, and spy, tells the story of his life to his "one true love," Clara Rockmore, the finest theremin player in the world. In the first half of the book, we learn of Termen's early days as a scientist in Leningrad during the Bolshevik Revolution, the acclaim he receives as the inventor of the theremin, and his arrival in 1930s New York under the aegis of the Russian state. In the United States he makes a name for himself teaching the theremin to eager music students and marketing his inventions to American companies. In the second half, the novel builds to a crescendo as Termen returns to Russia, where he is imprisoned in a Siberian gulag and later brought to Moscow, tasked with eavesdropping on Stalin himself. Throughout all this, his love for Clara remains constant and unflagging, traveling through the ether much like a theremin's notes. Us Conductors is steeped in beauty, wonder, and looping heartbreak, a sublime debut that inhabits the idea of invention on every level. "-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Toronto, On Random House of Canada Inc., 2014
Edition: First U.S. Edition
ISBN: 9780345813329
Branch Call Number: MIC
Characteristics: 347 p


From the critics

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Jan 28, 2016

Ignore the long subtitle and read this story anyway. Yes, it's a love story, but one of a very different kind. I was fascinated more with the way the author lifted the curtain on the life of a brilliant inventor in Communist Russia, at a time when most of the intelligentsia there was slaughtered. It was delightful also to learn about the theremin, a hauntingly beautiful instrument that sings like a soprano (check you tube to hear it in action - wow!).

Aug 12, 2015

The subject of the book is fascinating. One can see how deeply interested the author was in his subject and he describes in a beautiful and poetic way all the details about a theremin. However, everything else, including the life story of the Russian inventor is written quite poorly. The main character was depicted as a week and torn in his loyalties nerd, a victim of the Soviet regime, an apolitical scientist with no mind of his own. The fact that the main character frequently uses an expression "Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, may his memory be illuminated" sounds terribly false and wrong. It was never used in Soviet Russia, not in writing, not verbally. I'm afraid Sean Michaels will never be on the same level with the best Canadian writers if he continues writing nonsense about the cultures he knows only from his high-school textbooks.

Jul 04, 2015

Beautifully and poetically written. However, considering the novel contains many significant historical events in the background and chronicles many years, very little seems to actually occur. All events set in Russia seem very authentic compared to the writing set in America. There was a lack of detail to the roaring 20's, and the Great Depression. The events surrounding the main character felt entirely hollow and poorly researched.

Agak Tong
May 29, 2015

In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Lev Termen, the r inventor, and sp, tells the st of his lf to his "one true lo,'' Clara Rockmore, the finess theremin pl in the in first half of the book, we learn of Termen's early days as asc in leningrad during the bolshevik re, the acclaim he receives as the inventor of the theremin, and his arrival in 1930s new.

mallc Apr 29, 2015

Lovely & takes quite the turn...

Apr 11, 2015

Well researched, well written book.

Apr 09, 2015

Easy to read, but ordinary prose. Can't imagine who would really enjoy it.

ehbooklover Apr 06, 2015

This was not what I expected. At all. I picked this one up at the recommendation of a coworker with the preconceived idea (thanks to its title) that it was a romance. It wasn't. While I did find parts interesting, I found that I didn't love the author's writing style and that the exploration of the relationship between the protagonist and his "one true love" was extremely disappointing.

Not a fun read. I have loved the sound of the Theremin for years and looked forward to a story that let us into the mind of the inventor. Instead we read, in the first person, of an obsessed naïve and hedonistic man with little insight into his background and why oh why did he fall so hard for Clara? Something happened in his 'spy work' on behalf of Mother Russia but it is not clear why he was sent to the gulag. It does reflect the terrible waste of life and talent in communist Russia, maybe we do need a memorial in Ottawa to the victims of communism. This is the story of a wasted brilliance but it is not well told in this format.

Feb 23, 2015

A very unusual novel that is both historical and poetic at the same time. Given the time period, I was reminded of The Great Gatsby. It starts out slowly but once you get past the invention talk, the story was quite interesting. I enjoyed reading it but I did feel there was something missing in the main character even though we see him suffer. The author has a lot of events to cover in this man's life and so he leaves out many feelings and reactions.
How interesting that 2 of the Giller nominees deal with Russia but I have to say that The Betrayers was a better book for me because the main character is very human.

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Jul 04, 2015

"Sometimes it is just strength," he said. "The only answer is persistence."

Jul 04, 2015

There are twelve notes on the chromatic scale. But music is limitless.

Jul 04, 2015

Dreams have weight and velocity. They are signals, promises. They have a destination.

Jul 04, 2015

Life is not a laboratory; twenty-four imperfect hours make up a day. There is interference, distortion, accident, will. There is also hope. Hope will ruin a thing, or fulfil it.


Add a Summary
Jul 05, 2015

Leon Termen is a Soviet scientist, inventor, and music lover. He invents a new musical instrument; the theremin, and is sent to America to wow and impress. In New York, Leon falls in love with a woman while his musical invention is used as a front for Soviet spying.


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mytwin Jan 23, 2015

Other: This is the first Giller Prize that I simply could not finish.

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